Leonard Cheshire set to scrap disabled-only team over budget black hole


A disability charity is set to scrap a team of disabled staff members dedicated to empowering the residents of its care homes, in a bid to cope with a budgetary black hole.

Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) has told its award-winning, 14-strong customer support team (CST) that they are all facing possible redundancy, in a bid to eliminate what is believed to be a £750,000 budget deficit.

Members of the charity’s own Customer Action Network (CAN) of service-users this week sent out a newsletter calling on LCD to think again.

The newsletter warns: “Save Our Support. Your voices will not be heard. Your views will not be carried higher. Your independent support will not be there as is now.”

It says the CST is “irreplaceable”, and adds: “What was once a very strong department that listened and supported you has been slowly eroded.”

The newsletter says: “How can a disability charity [such]as this, who talk about getting disabled people into work, make a team of disabled people redundant?

“Will they please listen to alternative options put forward by the team!”

The newsletter includes a petition which CAN plans to send to the charity’s trustees.

CST – which is believed to have had an annual budget of £450,000 – was set up to work with the charity’s care home residents and home care service-users across the UK, and was said to be the only part of the charity where jobs were reserved for disabled people.

The team of fieldworkers support LCD service-users to empower themselves through training, providing information and mentoring, offering advocacy and peer support, and enabling them to put their views across by supporting CAN. 

After initially refusing to comment, the charity denied yesterday (27 April) that its financial problems were connected with the departure of its chief executive, Clare Pelham, and her decision to leave the post before a successor had been appointed.

Pelham’s temporary successor, Rosemary Pardington, has also handed in her notice.

LCD had an income of £162 million in 2014-15, making it the UK’s second-largest disability charity, after Mencap, but it is not led or controlled by disabled people.

Disabled activist Doug Paulley, himself a resident of an LCD care home, and a fierce critic of the way the charity is run, said CST’s work was “really important”.

He said: “The people that worked for them really cared and were disabled people trying to empower fellow disabled people on what more could be possible.

“They were the only ring-fenced jobs for disabled people and the only people charged with empowering disabled people, and yet they are the ones who are going.

“It is just disgusting, really. It just shows LCD up as right hypocrites.”

He said CST had already been “emasculated” several years ago in a previous round of cost-cutting, when LCD had again considered scrapping the whole unit.

Only last month, the charity was accused by a council and a local NHS body of an “uncaring disregard” for the disabled residents of one of its care homes, after giving them less than two months’ notice that they would be evicted.

LCD said this week that there were “no plans to close any more care homes being considered”.

An LCD spokeswoman said that Pelham’s decision to leave “was not related to any financial matters”.

She said: “At this point in time we are in informal discussions about the future of the customer support team and no decisions have been taken.

“As is normal for any charity of our size, we constantly review our operations to ensure we work with disabled people in the most effective way.

“Sadly, Rosemarie Pardington will be moving on to the next stage of her career this year and has agreed to stay with Leonard Cheshire as acting chief executive until September.”

She declined to comment on the size of the budget deficit, or whether any more jobs across LCD were at risk of redundancy.

Picture: A scene from an LCD promotional film

  • User Ratings (1 Votes)
  • srgc2731

    another charity run for profit
    with the top tier with their snouts in the trough

  • srgc2731

    Facts and Figures

    “The main reason you cease to be
    a Leonard Cheshire service user is
    death” (Darke, 2000);

    Despite preaching messages of equalit
    y in the workplace, out of the
    7,000 staff employed by Leonard C
    heshire, only 0.8% are disabled
    (Hermeston, 2001);

    “The Leonard Cheshire service your ta
    xes provide is given in situations
    (i.e. buildings) which are ‘80% unfit for purpose’ according to a Senior
    Director of Leonard Cheshire” (Darke, 2000);

    “Disabled people (in Cheshire Homes)
    struggle to exist with minimal
    assistance, no locks on their doors, no choice of who helps them w
    the most intimate of tasks, no power chairs or equipment to aid
    speech…” (Carr, 2000).

    What a donation to Leonard Ches
    hire Foundation might pay for:
    “A £70,000 salary for a Senior Director whilst a resident of a
    home has £15 spending money;
    £4,000,000 a year on Publ
    ic Relations / Advertising;
    Private Medical Insurance for Senior Directors whilst Disabled
    victims of charity wait months/years for medical care;
    45 pence per mile
    travel allowances;
    Trustee/Staff/Management get-togethers costing £10,000 for
    single weekend” (Darke, 2000).
    3. Group Captain Leonard Cheshire
    The first Cheshire Home was est
    ablished in 1948 when war hero Leonard

    helped’ Arthur Dykes, a friend who was terminally ill. Dykes
    asked Cheshire for a bit of land, on
    which to park a caravan until he was on
    his feet again; it was apparent that no
    body had told him that he was dying.
    Cheshire couldn’t maintain the decepti
    on and told Dykes the truth, inviting
    him live with him at Le Court in Hamp
    shire, described by Finkelstein (1987)
    as “a dilapidated house in the countrysi
    de.” Finkelstein goes on to note: “it
    is interesting, is it not, that of
    these two individuals
    caught up in our
    society’s neglect of disabled people, a
    ll public awards
    given by able-bodied
    people went to the able-bod
    ied person, who is probably amongst the most
    responsible for preventing the dev
    elopment of support systems enabling
    disabled people to live in
    the community, and that t
    here is no recognition for
    the disabled person who strove against
    all odds for the right of disabled
    people to be part of the community?”
    However Cheshire’s past was not as squeaky clean as current history
    would have us believe, and could be se
    en as indicative of what was to
    follow. Davis (1986) asserts: “the mentality that made Cheshire a compliant
    participant in the mass creation of disability at Hiroshima is the same
    mentality that made him the instigator
    of the mass incarceration of disabled
    people in a chain of segregated institutions. In the first case he went over
    the tops of the heads of disabled pe
    ople in a B29 bomber, in the second he
    went over our heads in the name of charity.” Carr (2000) concurs: “Leonard
    Cheshire, the man, influenced and c
    ontinues to influence many people’s
    lives; not only was he responsible for our mass incarceration over the latter
    half of the 20th Century but he is
    also most proudly described on the
    Leonard Cheshire website as the Br
    itish observer on the plane which
    dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima,
    killing and impairing many innocent
    people 55 years ago.”
    Ex-resident Philip Mason r
    ers: “at one stage he [Leonard
    Cheshire] came and suggested that we all gave up our Christmas dinner
    and sent the money to a Cheshire Ho
    me in India and he was astonished
    that we didn’t even discuss it… One can understand what he was trying to
    say but the fact that he felt able to come and make that proposal to the
    residents was the wrong spirit… It was a totally false proposal and it was
    based on some really, very, very,
    grossly misguided assumptions about
    disabled people. He assumed that we
    were being selfish and ungrateful
    and exceedingly uncaring in refusing to discuss it… I feel he’s been
    responsible for misleading societ
    y dreadfully” (Campbell and Oliver, 1996,
    pages 42-43).
    Richard Card, an ex-police offi
    cer who had personal dealings with
    Cheshire and created a website to challenge public perceptions of him,
    describes him as “an evasive c
    haracter who changed the subject very
    quickly to the exorbitant cost of wheelchairs and the shining role of himself
    in championing the cause of the disabl
    ed. It did not surprise me years later
    to hear on the news that he sent the Moscow Cheshire Home an opening
    gift … which was a signed portrait of himself” (Card, 2003).
    Such little-known facts did not stop Cheshire being voted the 31
    greatest Briton in a large BBC internet
    poll in October 2002. This high
    ranking is largely due to the high
    advertising budget of the Leonar
    Cheshire Foundation (£4 million per y
    ear according to Darke, 2000), whom
    in recent years have gone to great
    lengths to create a benevolent media
    profile for their founder.
    4. Representation of disabled people
    Despite claims to the contrary from
    the organisation itself, it is widely
    established amongst the disabled people’s movement that the Leonard
    Cheshire Foundation is not represent
    ative of disabled people (Hasler,
    1993). This is because there are no
    democratic, accountable ways in which
    disabled people can have in
    fluence and control over
    the organisation. For
    example, Carr (2000) describes fr
    om first-hand experience how Leonard
    Cheshire’s ‘user-led’ groups actually operate: “the Disabled People’s
    Forum… actually led many more
    people to become dependent on the
    charity for their new found ’empowerment’, creating a vested interest in
    working within… User-involvement therefore allows the organisation to
    appeal to local authority purchasing
    criteria and any changes which are
    made as a result of it ensure that
    residential care becomes an appealing
    option which is said to be respons
    ive to and support
    ed by the disabled
    people involved”.
    From the discontent of disabled residents in the first Cheshire Home,
    Le Court, sprang the modern-day disabl
    ed people’s civil rights movement.
    Resident / activist Paul Hunt organised strikes, management takeovers, and
    initiated a project to enable the re
    sidents to leave the home. On 20
    September 1972 he published a letter in the Guardian calling out to
    disabled people who “find themselves in
    isolated, unsuitable institutions,
    where their views are ignored and they are subject to authoritarian and
    often cruel regimes” (Campbell and Oliver, 1996, page 65). He proposed
    that they form “a consumer group to
    put forward nationally the views of
    actual and potential residents of thes
    e successors to the workhouse.” This
    letter led to the formation of the Union of Physically Impaired Against
    Segregation (UPIAS), a national,
    representative organisation that
    formulated the social model of disability on which the present-day British
    civil rights movement is based (UPIAS, 1976). This stated that disabled
    people are those people who
    experience barriers within society related to
    their impairment. Therefore the formation of our disabled people’s
    movement was a direct response to the oppression experienced by
    disabled people in Cheshire Homes.
    However Leonard Cheshire repeatedly fail to see that their institutions
    actually disable people.
    “Their recent report ‘Committed to Inclusion: the
    Leonard Cheshire Social Exclusion
    Report 2000’… raises the following
    question ‘what does stand in the way of
    much greater routine interaction
    between disabled people
    and the non-disabled world?’ Since the focus
    group didn’t include those most excluded of people, those living in
    residential care, it’s no surprise of course that nowhere in the report does
    Leonard Cheshire actually take an
    inward glance and blame its own
    existence for the exclusion of
    disabled people” (Carr, 2000).
    Campbell and Oliver (1996, page 57)
    relate the story of a Le Court
    resident who joined a disabled peopl
    e’s group after getting disillusioned with
    trying to change Leonard Cheshire Foun
    dation from within: “…within a year
    of his death he’d resigned from RADAR and resigned from the Cheshire
    Foundation and very tearfully admitted
    that he hadn’t achieved what he
    thought he could achieve.” They go on
    to state that his “experience was,
    and still is, a very common one for those who strive to change traditional
    ‘caring’ organisations from within…”
    There have been attempts in recent
    years by disabled people and their
    organisations to protest against the actions of the Leonard Cheshire
    Foundation. In 2000 ex-Cheshire em
    ployee Paul Darke launched ‘leonard-
    cheshire.com’, a website “about the
    Leonard Cheshire Foundation, and all
    that it represents socially, politica
    lly and economically
    in the lives of
    disabled people” (Hague, 2001). The si
    te contained a variety of facts and
    figures gathered during Darke’s time
    working for the organisation. The
    charity took expensive legal action, ev
    entually taking their claim to the name
    to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, who rule in their favour and
    ordered Darke to relinquish the name.
    The website is still accessible at:
    In October 2002 the Disabled People
    ’s Direct Action Network (DAN)
    organised a protest in Manchester ou
    tside a Leonard Cheshire charity
    fundraising ball, to raise money for
    a new home. One protestor said that
    the charity should be: “listening to di
    sabled people, us
    ing the money that
    goes into their services to provide
    services that are run and controlled by
    disabled people” (Disability Now, 2002).
    The charity responded by stating:
    “It is sad that people were so angry, but they have got a very outdated idea
    of what Leonard Cheshire represent
    s and stands for” (Disability Now,
    2002). However the fact that the ball was raising funds to build another
    residential institution would suggest that
    the protestors views of the charity
    were far from “outdated”, since they have been running such homes since
    they started.
    Cases such as these suggest that
    the Leonard Cheshire Foundation
    does not represent disabled peop
    le, since the organisation has no
    mechanism through which di
    sabled people can democr
    atically express their
    own views, and any form of protes
    t is stamped down on. As Carr (2000)
    states: “our organisations run and cont
    rolled by disabled
    people will all too
    often have to watch from the sidelin
    es as Leonard Cheshire steps in to
    claim its prize by offering purchasers what’s best for us.”
    5. Conclusions
    This review has highlighted a variety of sources that argue that the activities
    of the Leonard Cheshire Foundation hav
    e had a detrimental effect on the
    lives of disabled people.
    is has
    been realised throu
    gh the segregation of
    disabled people in residential inst
    itutions, and by s
    peaking on our behalf
    with no mandate from dis
    abled people themselves.
    Oliver (1997, page 52) believes that Cheshire Homes “deny some
    disabled people the right to live w
    here they choose, not necessarily
    maliciously but because to live in
    such an establishment means that
    individuals are regarded as being ade
    quately housed; consequently there is
    no statutory duty on the housing authority to house them.” In order to r
    this situation, they would have to
    abolish all of their residences and
    effectively put themselves out of bus
    iness. Carr (2000) points out: “Leonard
    Cheshire continues to create and prom
    ote our dependency as its existence
    depends upon it.”
    Such a dilemma raises the ques
    tion: whose benefit are Leonard
    Cheshire there for
    ? If, as they main
    tain, they exist to “enable” disable
    people, then this would require th
    em to close down completely.
    Briggs, L. (1993) Striving for independence. In
    Disabling Barriers –
    Enabling Environments
    (ed. Swain, J., Finkelstein, V. French, S. and
    Oliver, M.), London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
    Campbell, J. and Oliver, M. (1996)
    Disability politics: understanding
    our past, changing our future.
    Cornwall: Routledge.
    Card, R. (2003)
    Dishing the dirt on Leonard Cheshire.
    Carr, L. (2000) Enabling our Destruction.
    September 2000:
    Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People.
    Darke, P. (2000)
    leonardcheshire.com: Fast Facts.
    Davis, K. (1986) DISABILITY and the BOMB – the connection.
    Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People Newsletter, Clay Cross.
    Disability Now (2002) Ball busters.
    Disability Now
    , November 2002.
    Finkelstein, V. (1987)
    Images & employment of disabled people in
    Fairplay: http://www.leeds.ac.uk